Why do people have to tell you where to stand to take a great photograph? I’m not picking on photographers here but this post comes out of a Pin on Pinterest; the pin was really an advert for a new book: the topic? The best places to stand in Barcelona to take pictures. That set off a whole chain reaction of thoughts about why it is we think we need someone else to tell us how to do things “the right way” ? You’ve been to book stores, surely, where there were entire sections of the store devoted to self-help — how to do anything you can imagine — told to you by … well, that’s always a question isn’t it? Does the person who’s bold enough to instruct others really know any more than the ones they are instructing? From past history I’ve discovered that too often they do not. All they have is bigger cajones to convince you that they do.
A few days ago while unpacking some of those boxes we brought with us from Milwaukee I came upon a reference book I’d purchased 10 or more years ago. At the time I was doing a lot of photo editing and I was already at that point in life when I realized I was able to forget things faster than I could learn new tricks. Even when I bought the book I was at a point where I didn’t want to be told how to fix bad images — my time as a photographer was more about finding ways to get the timing and the lighting right in the camera and not changing the image after the fact — but no one is perfect and we all need help at times, so the book was a worthwhile investment. I didn’t have to make “actions” that I could click and replicate a certain look. Actions have a way of being obsoleted every time a program is revised but if you know how to do a thing you can make the adjustments as you go. So, I used the book quite a bit for a year.
But as I leafed through recently it dawned on me how many of the techniques were things that could have, and should have been done right in the first place. The book is a great way to save a lot of crummy pictures. But how do you learn to take better pictures?
Or, how do you learn to replace the battery in your 5th Generation iPod Classic?
Or, how do you learn to make a sourdough starter? Or bake a muffin-method coffee cake? Or change spark plugs? Or graft a species of apple into superior root stock?
The thing is, a lot of things we don’t get good at by reading. We obtain basic information but the real trick is doing that thing often enough to get to understand the idiosyncrasies of the activity, to know what can go wrong, how to fix it, how to avoid failures, how to do the job faster, cheaper, and better.
Some time ago people used to talk about the 10,000 hour rule. It’s not really a “rule,” but the idea is that it takes 10,000 hours to get to the point where you have really mastered a thing. From personal experience I happen to think there is a good, sound reason to accept the idea. It does take a considerable amount of time to really know a thing. It’s like the difference between having 20 years of experience, or having one year of experience that you have repeated 20 times — and believe me, there are a lot of people who do that. They don’t care to learn; they aren’t invested in their job; the squeak through life doing just what they have to do and don’t ask them to change how they are doing it, or expect them to look for ways to do it better.
Whether or not photography is an art depends upon the practitioner. By the same token, not all carpenters are craftsmen. Not all mechanics can troubleshoot — some just replace parts. The state of mind that you bring to whatever it is that you are doing is everything! Some people will excel at what they do, others will do enough to look like they know what they are doing — and not much more. Still others will hide where no one can see whether they are performing or not, and do as little as possible all the while they think they are scamming the boss (which they are).
I’m sure the author of that book sold a fair number of copies. But I question whether the person who wants to go full time RV’ing is the same sort of person who would want to be told where to go, what site to choose, how to hook up your water and electric, and how long to stay at a campground. My point being that most full time RV’ers seem to be the guys & gals who like challenges, who thrive on the unknown & and unpredictable. Mind you, none of us is every quite happen when a storm comes through and messes up our departure plans; or when we get sick on the road and have to spend more time in a place to recuperate — or less time in a place to get to where we can get emergency assistance: no one loves change that much. But change is a constant as an RV’er. For the last couple years I had been watching the growth of a very helpful website for RV’ers called RVillage.com. I joined when there were only a few hundred members, now there are over 58,000 members. What I noticed is that the microcosm of RV’ers is just like the microcosm of the world. There are literally all kinds. Some know what they are doing, others don’t — but recognize they don’t. Still others know little but think they know everything. Some want someone else to do their footwork for them; and a few are willing to help anyone at any time in any way. Like I said — just like the real world. It’s a place you may want to look into. There are some really wonderful people there — but like anything else — you have to separate the wheat from the chaff yourself. There and on any Internet Bulletin Board you’ll find all sorts of help. Some are 10,000 hours people. Others are novices. And buyer beware which advice you take, or how many confirming opinions you look for before trusting advice. I know in the days before GPS that was always my approach to directions when I was driving a truck: ask for directions twice. If both people give you the same directions feel so-so safe about trying that route. But if you get variations, keep asking until you get a consensus that agrees. That saved me skin more than a few times because everyone who wants to help is not qualified to help.
Some might even say that the 10,000 hour rule is the reason I decided (for myself — Peg has her own reasons) for deciding it was time to get off the road. After 5 years of more-than-8-hours-a-day, more than 5-days-a-week, more than 44-weeks-a-year I was at the point that I had learned what I wanted to learn. That is in keeping with my personality and history… fortunately, I’ve never gotten to the point that I have mastered Peggy — we’re going on 49 years now and I’m still working on that one! 🙂
Be careful about people who want to tell you how to do things. I’m not down on advice; I ask for it and take it quite often. But make sure that you know what you’re getting. Sometimes what is presented to you as a “solution” is merely an eye-opening way to view an entirely new landscape and from there you can go on to bigger and better things.
Thanks for stopping; why not check in here tomorrow and see what’s up.